Disney’s streaming service is still on track for its fall 2019 launch, and today Deadline revealed some details about what that service will look like once it launches, and what kind of content Disney will be offering. The information comes from meetings Disney had been conducting in Hollywood to give people in the industry a sense of what to expect from the upcoming service.
Per the report, Disney is looking to debut four to five original movies and TV series during the first year of the service, which will launch in America first before expanding internationally later on. Disney is also said to be sticking with family-friendly programming that fits the Disney brand, with no R-rated movies whatsoever. More adult-tilted content will be funneled to Hulu, and the company is said to be leaving its darker and more violent Marvel Netflix series where they are for now. There’s also no word at all on 20th Century Fox content, or what role that studio’s output may play in the upcoming service.
But looking at the original content Disney is reportedly planning for the service still gives a good sense of what kind of service Disney is planning. In short, the company is sticking to its successes from the past few years, with a heavy emphasis on established brands, adaptations, and remakes versus truly original content.
There’s a slate of book adaptations, including film versions of Charlie N. Holmberg’s The PaperMagician, Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl, the Timmy Failure series, and oddly, a Billy Ray-penned adaptation of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s classic novel Don Quixote. Also on the list is Togo — a live-action sled dog movie directed by Ericson Core — and a remake of the 1987 Tom Selleck film Three Men and a Baby.
Disney is also said to be shunting some of its less important theatrical films to the service instead, like Magic Camp, which was originally slated to hit theaters this summer before getting removed from Disney’s schedule entirely, and the Anna Kendrick-led Christmas film Noelle. Also making their way to the service are some of the company’s less prestigious live-action remakes. Turning animated hits like The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast into live-action blockbusters has become a critical part of Disney’s strategy, and while big titles like The Lion King are still headed for theaters, when it comes to the remakes of less-beloved films — The Sword in the Stone and Lady and the Tramp are both mentioned — they’ll reportedly be premiering on the streaming service instead.
On the TV series side, it seems like we’ll simply see Disney doubling down on the incredibly popular properties it’s already had success with. The company is said to be working on an animated Monsters, Inc. series, a new High School Musical series, a live-action Marvel show, and the first live-action Star Wars TV series — a strategy that more or less emulates Disney’s existing successes and tries to port them to television.
Deadline reports that Disney is willing to invest at least some cash into its shows. The company is reportedly budgeting between $ 25 million to $ 35 million per 10-episode series, which is roughly the same per-episode cost as shows like Marvel’s Netflix series or The Walking Dead. But more ambitious shows could get up to $ 100 million for a 10-episode season, closer to the realm of über-expensive prestige dramas like Game of Thrones, American Gods, and Westworld.
There’s a lot we don’t know, of course. There’s no word on whether Disney’s series are half-hour or hour-long shows, which would greatly impact budget, and obviously these are rough figures for the entire enterprise; it’s hard to imagine High School Musical costing the same as a live-action Star Wars series. But as a whole, Disney seems to be playing things a bit cautiously, with most of those figures coming in on the low end for big shows in the era of peak TV, and flashy, big-budget programming looking more like the exception instead of the rule.
The proposed slate offers up an interesting, if uninspiring, mix of content — but the properties, star talent, and money that Disney is reportedly willing to throw at the service indicates that the company is doing more than just treating it like an online version of The Disney Channel. It’s extremely telling that Disney views the service as a viable alternative for smaller theatrical releases, and the TV shows are beyond the size and scope of anything the company has done on ABC, Freeform, or Disney Channel, even if it’s not diving in with huge films on the level of Netflix’s Bright right out of the gate.
With the existing content restrictions, it’s also doubtful we’ll see anything as edgy as The Handmaid’s Tale or House of Cards make its way to Disney’s service, but by playing to its brand strengths, it’s possible — even probable, given the company’s recent success — that Disney will be able to skate by on the strength of its less original content anyway.
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